BMW - revolutionising logistics through robotics and virtual reality

Jan 24, 2019   Features

In this second of two articles, Simon Duval Smith looks in depth at the specialised robotic applications, the use of virtual reality, and highlights some specific applications of digitalisation in the BMW Group’s finished vehicle delivery system.

The German OEM has embraced some sophisticated software systems and combined these with a variety of ‘smart’ robots and virtual reality solutions. The Group uses a cloud-based operating platform, named BMW Services, for central coordination of autonomous transport systems. The platform simplifies logistics processes significantly. Staff enter driving rules and workflows through an easy-to-use user interface and receive the latest data on all vehicles. Going forward, the platform will support autonomous transport vehicles built by different manufacturers. The Group is actively involved in the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA), working to establish a standard that will enable communication between all autonomous transport systems in the marketplace. Regardless of the manufacturer, every autonomous transport system should be able to exchange data with BMW Services.

Heavyweight robotic solutions

As well as the AutoTrailer that we featured in last week’s article, a mobile platform which drives underneath a trailer deposited by a truck tractor unit, connects to it and steers it through the plant, the Group has developed several bespoke robots.

Following on from the AutoTrailer, another variant of the autonomous outdoor transport system uses devices called AutoBoxes. These autonomous platforms can manoeuvre multiple lattice boxes with components between plant halls. With a payload of up to 25 tons, they can transport up to 20 lattice boxes at one time. In spring 2019, a pilot application will be launched at the Dingolfing Dynamics Centre. The AutoBoxes will also be introduced at the plants in Shenyang, China and Berlin next year.

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